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PHOTOS: Train ride into a war zone

By Ty O'Neil
This Is Reno photographer and video journalist Ty O’Neil, whose passion lies with documenting conflict zones, traveled to Europe to document the war in Ukraine and its impacts. This Is Reno will continue to follow Ty’s efforts in Ukraine as he is able to send them.

LVIV, Ukraine – I have spoken about the use of trains for those fleeing Ukraine, but another side of that story is about the trains going back. 

I met another reporter by complete coincidence at Platform 5 in Poland waiting to board the train. We stuck out as younger men while the rest of the line was made up of women, children and the elderly. 

Two Ukrainian women just in front of us were very friendly. One became very concerned with my shivering and offered – more, forced – a blanket on me both for the waiting on the train and the train ride as well. I took it as a very kind action from a person in much more dire circumstances than myself.

The trains into Ukraine are older, with hard wooden seats and cold metal walls. Image: Ty O’Neil / This Is Reno

The train was an aging one with wooden bench seats, cold steel walls and a bathroom situation that convinced most people they could hold it.

Looking out the window was a reminder that just because a war is raging, life carries on. Farmers were out on tractors, rural residents were chopping wood, kids played in the forest and waved as the train went by. Things that seemed normal, almost cliché, could have lulled one into a feeling of normalcy.

That feeling was broken, though, by the men in the forest with automatic rifles watching the train pass. Roads and rail points were marked with white sandbags marking armed checkpoints. The number of such stops grew in number as the train took us ever deeper into Ukraine.

A few miles into Ukraine our train stopped and people with military clothing boarded the train to check passports. The stop should have been a minor delay, but a glitching tablet slowed the process and caused a bit of stress. Though once corrected, the journey resumed.

Arriving in Lviv, the other journalist and I hefted the larger bags out of the train and entered the town as the evening and a city-wide curfew grew near.

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